By: Chris Mattox
Been a while since I did one of these, but the urgency of the moment compelled me.
1. Gillum Got ‘Em: Gillum was solidly in third place when I started following the vote count. However, over the course of the next four or five hours, as polling places closed, he managed to climb from third to a game changing first place finish. My approach at WCT is not to just rehash the news of the day, you can find that anywhere. Instead, I try to look beyond the obvious and find the nuance. So, here’s my takeaway; Gillum won by nearly 42-43k votes. Turn out amongst African Americans and people of color carried Gillum to his primary victory. Obviously he’ll need that and some to compete in November. My one disappointment in his victory was how many people I know personally who didn’t vote or didn’t understand the primary system. I have family still running that tired ol’ game of “It doesn’t matter”. “The system this and the system that”. “Nothing will change”. That’s the thinking that helped land Trump in office last year. Why are we still adverse to participating in the process? I had some friends tell me that they’ll vote in November when it “matters”. I think the Trump Win in 2016 disillusioned many young voters of color who were taking their first steps into the democratic process. We have to restart the Obama hope train from 2008. I believe that Gillum is the type of candidate that can generate a similar type of momentum and energy.
2. Angela Rye shines spotlight on Florida and Gillum: A quick perusal of Instagram or Facebook reveals post and reposts from celebrities urging folks to show up for Andrew Gillum. Tracie Ellis Ross, David Banner, Killa Mike and other non-Florida resident celebs were promoting Gillum to their millions of followers. The person at the nexus of this unique singularity is the one and only, the beautiful and intelligent (I’m shot shooting) Angela Rye. Rye has developed a major voice over the last year and a half. She speaks to the culture and has been granted the rare privilege of speaking for the culture. By making Gillum a national figure, she’s following the Obama playbook. Barack went from a politician known throughout his state to a prominent figure on the main stage in a relatively short amount of time (in the world of politics). Gillum has spoken at the DNC convention and his profile is rising in the country and just as importantly it’s rising in the culture. If the culture adopts him in the same we did president Obama, this could be the beginning of a major political shift in the south.
3. Taking the temp of my hood: Every big election I return to my original polling place, Paul Turner Elementary School in Lauderhill. I go there because it provides a good barometer of African American turnout. In Lauderhill you have everyone from millennials to baby boomers, Uber-liberal-fight-the -power types and patriotic veterans of foreign wars. In Lauderhill, you have homeowners and renters, professionals and day laborers. So when I visit, I speak to the old man of the day tending to the door. I ask how it’s been. Yesterday the man working the door said it had been consistently busy. I was there for about an hour and I witnessed the steady stream he had mentioned, and I only saw one unfortunate incident. A young woman didn’t understand the primary system. As a registered member of the Green Party, she couldn’t understand why she couldn’t vote for Gillum. She raised a little hell, but when everyone looked at her like the dunce she was portraying she dropped her ballot on the floor and stormed out. One older lady tried to tell her how she could change her party affiliation to vote in the primary, but the young woman scoffed and dipped. I overheard the ladies working the polling place bemoan a potential vote lost. My Paul Turner visit was the first sign I had that Gillum had more than a long shot.
4. FAMU BRED/ FAMU MADE: So I’m a proud graduate of The Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, and last night watching all the coverage and reading all the memes I felt an enormous amount of pride building within. I had spoken with Gillum on several occasions. He was my SGA president damn near my whole time at FAM. Then I watched him become a city commissioner and eventually a mayor. If you attended FAMU from say 1997 thru 2010 or so you’ve watched the young man develop and progress as both a politician and a family man. School pride is just as tribal as any other affiliation. Myself and others I know feel a kinship and connection to Gillum primarily rooted in those years on the hill. I saw him at Kappa Luau in ‘99 and several times in the Moon and Top Flight. He’s always been clean and presentable in the same way Barack was, and similar to Barack, Gillum is an expert code switcher. One thing FAMU teaches all her scions and progeny is how to be respectfully and professionally pro-Black and simultaneously comfortable in the throws of ratchetly raucous revelry. Keisha Bottoms is mayor of Atlanta and she’s also a daughter of the school on the highest of seven hills. We are FAMU and we produce leaders! Never underestimate the influence and impact of HBCUs. We all we got!
If y’all remember Water Cooler Talk, then one time for y’all! Imma try to get back in the swing of things. Share, comment, like, and all of that.